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Statehood and Green parties could join forces next year

(Published June 28, 1999)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

Two of the city’s major activist political parties could merge and become one party by the end of next February. But that move could cost both organizations their official status as major D.C. political parties and their right to conduct primary elections.

The D.C. Statehood Party voted at its annual convention June 12 in favor of a resolution to merge with the D.C. Green Party. The Greens are set to discuss the resolution at their July 1 meeting and could vote on the issue as early as August. The new party would be called the D.C. Statehood Green Party, officials of both parties said.

"This is a boon for both parties," said John Gloster, outgoing Statehood party chairman and former mayoral candidate. "The Greens will get a much stronger local presence than they’ve had in the District. For our part, we get ties to the Association of State Green Parties," the Green party’s equivalent of the Democratic National Committee.

Scott McLarty, a member of the Green party’s steering committee, said a merger with the Statehood party seems a logical step because both parties’ platforms are so similar. He said members of both parties work together on the same issues concerning the environment and self-determination in the District.

But a spokesman for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics said a merger would cost both parties their ballot status. If the parties merge, they will have to register as a new political party and start from scratch trying to get major party status, said elections board spokesman Bill O’Field.

Being recognized as a major party in the District has major advantages at election time. Having ballot status allows parties to hold primary elections in the District and allows members to officially register as members of the party. Candidates for major parties can also accept donations twice as large as independent candidates.

Candidates affiliated with major political parties also don’t need to collect as many signatures to get on the ballot. Independent candidates need to gather 3,000 signatures to get their names placed on the ballot, but candidates for parties with ballot status only need to gather 1 percent of their membership’s signatures, or 2,000 signatures, whichever is less. Statehood Party candidates, for example, need to gather only 40 signatures to get on the ballot because the party has just 4,000 registered members.

In the District, parties achieve ballot status by garnering 7,500 votes for a candidate in a general election. The Greens got ballot status when their candidate for U.S. "shadow" representative, Mike Livingston, drew 9,191 votes last November. The Statehood Party retained its major party status when both at-large council candidate Hilda H.M. Mason and U.S. "shadow" representative candidate David Van Williams drew the required number of votes. None of the three candidates won a seat in city government.

McLarty said the Greens are consulting with a lawyer concerning a merger and how that would affect their party status. He said because two parties have never merged in the history of D.C. electoral politics there might be ways to do it without losing ballot status.

Gloster said talk of a merger has been going on for some time but that "high level" party members have been discussing a merger for only the past three or four months.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator